National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951 – Issues in News

  • NRC is a document by the Government which contains the names of bona fide Indian citizens to weed out the illegal migrants.
  • This process is undertaken by Registrar General of India and monitored by Supreme Court.

Who will be considered Indian citizen?

  • Those whose names were in the 1951 NRC or in any or the electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24 1971 and their descendants
  • National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation basically means the process of enlisting the names of those persons (or their descendants) whose names appear in any of the Electoral Rolls up to 1971, 1951 NRC or any of the admissible documents stipulated.

Assam Accord

  • The Assam Movement (or Assam Agitation) was a popular movement between 1979 and 1985 against undocumented immigrants in Assam.
  • The demands was to update the NRC of 1951 were first raised by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam GanSangramParishad (AAGSP) after launching the anti-illegal foreigners Assam Movement.
  • The Assam accord was signed between the leaders of AASU-AAGSP and the Government of India in 1985 marking an end to a six-year-long agitation.
  • It stipulated 24th March, 1971 as the cut-off date for identification and deportation of illegal migrants from East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Accordingly, the Citizenship Act, 1955 was amended by inserting section 6A as special provisions for Assam.
    • All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote;
    • The entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
    • those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported;

Section 6 (A) of the Indian Citizenship Act 1955

  • The amendment gave citizenship to all migrants from Bangladesh who came to Assam till the midnight of March 24, 1971, while the cut-off date for the rest of the country is July 19, 1948.
  • The 1971 deadline was seen as a middle ground – it accounted for the migration of people from across Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, who were fleeing prosecution during the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, but kept out those who had come in during the 1971 war that saw the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan
  • Some organisations in Assam feel the provision is discriminatory because it has a different date for Assam and the rest of India and is not even legal.

Other Clauses of Accord

  • Restricting acquisition of immovable property by foreigners
  • Registration of births and deaths
  • Prevention of encroachment of government lands
  • Promoting cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese
  • Economic development, stress on education, science and technology
  • Citizenship certificates to be issued only by central authorities
  • Border security to be ensured

Laws governing NRC

  • As per statutes governing NRC updation that are The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003

Implementation

  • The actual implementation of NRC update is done by the Statutory Authorities i.e.Local Registrars and District Magistrates appointed by the State Government. A senior official of the State Government functions as State Coordinator and coordinates with the RGI/Government of India in regard to various activities.
  • The NRC update work is done under the supervision and control of the Registrar General of Citizen Registration (RGI). The administrative and operational matters are handled by the State Government as per their extant rules.

What is the procedure?

  • To apply for inclusion in the NRC, one’s name or one’s ancestor’s name must be in the 1951 NRC or in any voter list up to the midnight of March 24, 1971, the cut-off date agreed upon in the Assam Accord.
  • If the applicant’s name is not on any of these lists, he can produce any of the 12 other documents dated up to March 24, 1971, like land or tenancy record, citizenship certificate or permanent residential certificate or passport or court records or refugee registration certificate. March 25, 1971 is when the Bangladesh Liberation War began.
  • If the applicant’s ancestor’s name is on any of these lists, the applicant will have to prove his relationship to his ancestor by producing his board or university certificate, ration card or any other legally acceptable
  • An Indian citizen from another state who moved to Assam after the specified date is not eligible for inclusion in the NRC though he can continue to vote.

What happens to those who came from neighboring countries after March 24, 1971?

  • The demand has been that such people be sent back to the countries they came from, India needs to sign repatriation treaties with Bangladesh and Nepal for the same.
  • Deporting undocumented immigrants will require Bangladesh’s cooperation. In the absence of framework this could lead to humanitarian crisis jeopardizing India Bangla relations.

Why is updating necessary?

  • It is the struggle of those who wanted to save their culture from being extinct and be reduced to an ethnic minority section in their homeland
  • The Indigenous people of Assam fear that the unabated influx or growing stream of immigrants and infiltrators from across the border would one day reduce them into a small minority
  • Immigration problem has been regarded as a “Security Threat” as it creates problem not only for personal security and human rights issues but also creates internal and international security problem.
  • The NRC is to be updated to comply with the demands in the Assam Accord, which was signed in 1985 by Rajiv Gandhi and leaders or the Assam Movement
  • It will reduce the pressure on natural as well as economic resources of the state

Concerns raised

  • Many Question the validity or the 1951 NRC since it was incomplete
  • People complain that the government has not made available all electoral rolls up to 1971 in all districts.
  • One of the oft-repeated complaints is the discrepancy in names in different government documents, caused by misspelling of names and inclusion or nicknames instead or actual names
  • There has been concern from Indigenous tribes who may not have any pre-1971 documents to prove their Identity. While all original inhabitants or Assam are to be included in Assam, the modalities tor the same have not been finalized
  • Many of the Muslims who had fled Assam could only return later, thereby not being included in the 1951 Census and NRC.

Conclusion

  • The publication of the updated NRC is indeed a positive step in so far as it puts to rest wild speculations about the extent of the illegal migrant population in Assam and the resulting polarization that political parties have been exploiting to make electoral gains.
  • However, the absence of any clear policy as to how to deal with the proclaimed illegal migrants has created a sense of unease in the minds of many presently residing in Assam.
  • Further, while the NRC is being updated for Assam, there is no plan to prepare similar NRCs for the other states in the North East where illegal migration continues to be a volatile issue.
  • The need of the hour therefore is for the Union Government to allay apprehensions presently in the minds of the people of Assam and take steps to contain any adverse fallout after the publication of the final draft of the NRC. At the same time, it also needs to spell out what it intends to do with the persons whose names do not figure in the final NRC.

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